By NEVILLE BRAYBROOKE
ARTHUR RIMBAUD, by Enid STARKIE (Faber, 50s.). wAS Rimbaud a scoundrel or a martyr, a waster or a saint? In Dr. Starkie's opinion "not one of these descriptions adequately fits him".
In her view, he was primarily an adventurer--first in his poetry, then in his gypsy wanderings.
In his first adventures he had explored the heavenly regionsan experience which no subsequent earthly explorations could surpass Before he was 20 he had recorded both the hell of doubt in Line Saison en Enfer and the quest for spiritual enlightment in his Illuminations.
TN the context of these Illumina tions, Dr. Stark ie refers to the poetry of St. John of the Cross, and it is worth remembering that the Spanish mystic's best translator in the present century happens also to be Rimbaud'snamely, Roy Campbell.
In her concluding chapter, Dr. Starkie sums up Rimbaud as "a mystical unbeliever". It is a description hard to better. Yeats called himself "a churchless mystic", and partisan critics, in trying to claim both poets for orthodoxy, have done literary justice a disservice.
DR. STARKIE in her monumental work (of which this is the third and an extensively revised edition) has kept strictly to facts.
Without prejudice, she points out how the man who could not believe himself has led others through his poems to find expressed in his lines their own need for God -among them Claude!, Daniel-Rops and Jacques Riviere.
In the words of his youngest sister, his role was "de pousser des limes (Petite vers Dieu".